The Importance of Ethical and Good Behaviour for your Happiness

 

Among the Living, this guy has probably the most to say on how to be "good": Dalai Lama.

Among the Living, this guy has probably the most to say on how to be “good”: Dalai Lama.

You want to transform your life into something beyond being a pure economic subject that consumes, works, produces, pushes the GDP and ultimately dies to be replaced by the next robot?

Then it is worthwhile to look back in time on what previous big minds have said about self-actualization and living a good life.

The thing is:
While many things change very quickly, the large questions about meaning, sense etc., stay absolutely constant over the centuries. And the “old” masters of happiness and good life (btw: they were called philosophers, not as today “coaches” 😉 ) have one advantage:

Their theories obviously passed the test of time.

If you can still buy and read the books of those persons that lived hundreds or thousands of years ago, there must be a profound truth in what they said. A basic truth that was able to withstand so many waves of change and progress (whatever progress is).

So this reading is what Woodpecker did in a quite difficult time of his life, i.e. long before this blog, at a time where I decided that I am not happy with the average consume-produce-die-approach to life that so many people around us want us to pursue.
At that time I basically went through a whole library of philosophers, starting from the ancient Greeks (Aristoteles, Platon, Epicurus, Diogenes, Stoa), over romans (mainly Cicero), the big Germans (Kant, Schopenhauer), some others (Kierkegaard, and a lot that I forgot). Plus I added some religious and spiritual leaders, because very often there were (and are) intelligent and progressive people among them too.
All of this writers were people who thought way beyond their own ego, who ventured out to picture the big lines.

Plus I also added to my reading the big negative examples in history, to understand the dark side as well: Caesar, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Napoleon.
Being sinister people who in contrast were only interested in themself, their own power and their own ego.

The learing benefit of spending these 5 years or so of reading was nothing less than massive. It definitely changed my life and my view on the world (much to the better!) and it is a treasure that will delight me until the very end.

Why do I write all of this?

Because one fact really struck me as amazing, and it is a good starting point if you do not have the time now for five years of reading:

Through the history, throughout the centuries and over all cultures, be it west or east, philosophers and religious leaders stress the importance of ethical living if you truly want to become a happy and fulfilled person!

Recommending an ethical living is the most common denominator from ancient Greeks over buddhism, from Emanuel Kant to Dalai Lama.

There are only very few exceptions, but if you continue to explore the biographies of those, you quickly see that while intellectually fascinating, you do not want to follow their path (e.g. Nietzsche was one, but he became mad and died alone and in bitterness).

Thus I safely can follow this large minds and recommend ethical living, too.

We all are no mother Theresa, thus we will not always succeed, but I can say that from the day of this insight on, I tried to follow that path, much to my satisfaction so far.

Here is my observation on trying to do so:

1. The benefit of being good

Aristoteles formed a comprehensive theory on happiness and "virtue".

Aristoteles formed a comprehensive theory on happiness and “virtue”.

(a)  My observation is that people who only look for their own benefit, typically expect others to do so as well, thus they seem more often to distrust others.
They seem to lose faith that the world overall is a good place and that humans overall are good. Just because they themself do not care too much about being good, and you always project your own view of the world outward. So you look for the bad in people and will focus on it.

(b) The other way round if you try to be positive.
Trying to life ethical opens your eyes to the many positive and gentle things out there in day-to-day life. Your basic primary belief in others will be that they have good intentions, and very often you will find that, focus on that and be rewarded by your belief.

(c) Helping others without expecting something in return gives a deep satisfaction.
In the end it is not entirely selfless to help, because you feel needed, integrated etc. Good things and no one says you shall not benefit by helping others.

(d) You start to ask others for help, too. And you will see that people love to help.
Actually people deep inside want to have a positive and selfless impact on others. There is a deep-wired social component in all of us to let others around you benefit from your skills. The “market” unfortunately tries to press much of this into economic patterns. But just look at the internet: So many blogs out there, so many great content, all for free! Some of my best reading, some of the best pictures, recipes, travel tips, and many of my best investment decisions: All coming from blogs where nice people put them out there for use! Thank you, dear world!
Why do they do this? Ultimately the same reason than myself: People WANT to give something to the world. For free. Outside of a market and without pay.

(e) Ultimately, people behave reciprocal.
At least subconsciously, people will notice who wants them good and who wants them bad. And they will remember, even over long stretches of time. If you meet again in the future, they will treat you accordingly.

(f) If you behave ethical, you have more luck in life.
Lets be a bit pathetic: You can say the universe is thankful. And if you want to explain that more sober, look at point (e): There is serious theories out there that say that “good” people accumulate positive attitude towards them over time. After decades, so many people around them remember that they behaved positively, that the occasions where this people get something positive back “out of nothing” get more and more numerous. Plus again, behaving positively will automatically make you focus more on the good things happening to you, and just accepting them without doubt.

(g) Other way round with the un-ethical person.
They accumulate negative feelings against them. And beware when the lose their power over others (e.g. the nasty but powerful boss: Once he quits job, he will be surprisingly alone and become bitter despite all money and fame in the past).

(h) You will get into contact with good people very easily and all around the world.
People have an amazingly good sense if a foreigner is truly friendly to them or a potential threat. They will recognize you as an ethical person, you will recognize them and you will have a good time. And you will save money if you trust. (e.g. the laptop I am writing on this moment: It was bought via telephone from a Turkish guy living 500km away from Munich. After a chat on the phone we both decided to trust each other, I transferred 500 EUR to this total stranger and two days later this wonderful and very cheaply sold computer was here. Saved me 150 EUR compared to offers close-by…)

(i) To some extend, there emerge two worlds.
As ethical people will go out-of-the-way of un-ethical people in the long run (see below), and thus the latter are forced to deal among themselves to some degree, both groups somehow get what they expect: The non-ethicals will be surrounded by other non-ethicals (confirming their pessimistic view on the world) and the ethical people will have large networks of other ethical people around them. Both groups, to some degree, being separated from each other, at least in private life.

(j) Philosophers claim, that behaving good, apart from all fact above, is absolutely necessary to unfold your true human nature, to fulfill all of your potential.
Simply because the human nature is to help and to support others, and if you act against it, you life an unnatural life, a life that can never succeed.
I absolutely agree to this one, too. Seems to fit all observations I make.

2. What is the disadvantage of behaving “good” and ethical

I can tell you, because there are a few:

Immanuel Kant, who formulated what acutal "good" and "ethical" behaviour means.

Immanuel Kant, who formulated what actual “good” and “ethical” behaviour means.

(a) You will be called “Gutmensch” (german negative word for people trying to do good. Is it “do-gooder” in English?) from time to time.
You will be called “dreamer”, “naive”, and so on.
Just ignore that. It is mostly people who are bitter or envy you for you being able to have a positive view on the world. These people somehow feel that their approach to the world is incorrect, but to safeguard their mental system they try to argue that behaving good is actually bad. This effect was already described by Aristoteles 2500 years ago.
Don’t get in a defensive position about that. If the other person continues to insult you that way, just go out of their ways. One human contact more he/she lost. Too bad.
But in my opinion, your humanistic attitude does not require you to take all the hits. In the end, most of us are still small humans down here and neither Siddharta or Jesus nor Mother Theresa.

(b) You will get exploited from time to time.
This is the most imminent danger. As you will always go out open and expecting the good, some “bad” players can more easily exploit you than if you go out sceptic and cautious.
This will happen in private life (but not that often to my observation), and in job-life: more often, as unfortunately often the powerful people came to their position not by competence, but by playing ambiguous political games. And you will never be good in political games, because political games by nature require dishonesty and opportunism or at least concealing information. All of this is not your métier as an ethical person and should not be strived for.

(c) You can shield yourself to some extend by playing tit-for-tat
This comes from game theory and says that you always start out positive or “good”. But if the other persons responds with “bad”, you react with “bad” as well. In the end, ethical yes or no, you do not want to be exploited all the time. But that’s no fun game, so on the long run you better break off the contact if possible: Find new friends, other business partners or a new job.

(d) Economically you will do a bit worse
In the end, there is no talking around it: On the economic side, you pay a certain price for behaving “good”. It is no secret that you will miss out some career move, a bit of higher salary, some dirty earnings here and some evaded tax there, compared to the ruthless self-maximizer.
This loss is partly mitigated by the reciprocity that will also bring you additional job opportunities or small favours from others.

But all in all there is a certain economic cost, so you have to make a decision.

3. Conclusion

If you are uncertain yet, please go back up in this post, and really think what is important in life: One career step more? A few thousand bucks more on your account?
Or the priceless feeling of living in a great world surrounded by friendly people?
You can also look at old people. See who is happy and who not. Think about how all of this persons might have behaved in their past life and what is the respective result. You will see the pattern.

Or read one of my favorite books:
The life of Dorian Gray (who, by some magic, is able to transfer all the negative results of his bad behaviour to a picture of him).

I hope I was able to convince you to join the “club of the naive, dreaming, ethical living people” (Woodpecker trademark, haha) !

If yes: Welcome! Let’s have a good time!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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Modern Times: The Issue of “Showing off”

Approaching Rovinj by boat: Nice. Doing so with 4 great old friends on board: Fantastic!

Approaching Rovinj by boat: Nice. Doing so with 4 great old friends on board: Fantastic!

Woodpecker just came back from a great week of sailing the Croatian Coast with good old friends from School. Although our boat was a bit on the slow side (gosh, accidentally I booked a “comfort” version and not a “sportive” one. Its stern was as wide as the ass of a clerk one day before his retirement!), the trip was amazingly great.

The landscape and beautiful small coast towns of Istria (NW Croatia) are amazing, again Europe surprised me with another great strip of land that I did not dare to expect to be so beautiful.

But above all it is great to be on a boat with people who you know since 20+ years.

A repeating topic in the many good conversations on board was the issue of showing-off in the modern social world.

Very quickly we all agreed that we see this widespread tendency to show-off as a major energy drain today.

So what do I mean by that?

Evening at the anchor bay - time for beers!

Evening at the anchor bay – time for beers!

I mean that I (and seemingly a lot of others) have the impression that showing-off became more and more important in the western society over the recent years.

Probably driven by social media, the internet and massive information overflow, people seem to compare themselves more and more to others, no matter what they do. This seems to be more critical in business environments, large cities and generally among materialistic people. But it is not limited to those groups.

In fact I think that showing-off rather is a symptom of worshiping consumption, material accumulation and money, which in turn take the place of religion, or of political and social ideologies, who all left the scene in the 1990s. Leaving a great void of meaningless that is now filled with an endless struggle to have more and to show it to others.

The big problem is that most people do not realize how much energy and effort they spent to show-off. In fact, even you and me as downshifters are not immune to this effect, as we still are social beings, embedded in our time and in our society.

The more important it is to realize any showing-off within your own actions.
Because as a downshifter, you obviously want to avoid spending money on stupid things like invoking envy in others, or trying to underscore your social status by superfluous purchases.
On your way to happiness the same holds true: Getting lukewarm applause or envy from others is a short-living drug. They are not what will carry you through the great storms in life.

So how do you distinguish between showing-off and just having a good time or doing something that you really enjoy?

A first self-test for show-off is:

Do something or buy something, and do the following:

  • completely abstain from taking photos
  • abstain from posting anything about your deed or purchase on Facebook (=pose book), whatsapp and other social media
  • best, abstain from bringing (or turning on) your cell-phone at all during the trip/event.
  • do not tell anyone about the event/purchase unless asked
  • if telling others then do so in the most modest way possible, explicitly in a way that does not invoke envy, but on the contrary makes the other person say: “Well, nice, but nothing special“.
  • Or put in one word: Be humble.

If you still enjoy the thing, if you do not have the feeling that “something is missing” until you post your deed or your purchase  on Facebook, then likely the motivation to do this or to buy this was not clouded by showing off.

If you repeat train this, it will become natural to you to be humble.

Europe at its best once more: Sailing in front of a medieval setting.

Europe at its best once more: Sailing in front of a medieval setting.

The “disadvantage” is, that short-term you will get much less applause and regard on your way. But remember: The applause you are foregoing is lukewarm and tepidly anyway. Better face it now: You cannot buy anything with that kind of false esteem on the long run. Sooner or later it will dwindle anyway, so why bother with it in the first place?

The huge advantage is: Over the long run, the superficial people will automatically sort themselves out from your circle of friends. They will walk away and look for more glamorous acquaintances somewhere else. On the other side, the really interesting people will stay and more of them will be attracted to you. This are the people who are not easily blinded by a dazzling surface, but who want to dig deeper and who want to connect on a personal and profound level. This are the people who lifelong friends are made of. Once you are connected, this people will stay, no matter what happens, no matter what car you drive, no matter how ill you get, or how long you lose contact. This people will be your bullet-proof social treasure and not the interchangeable guys that are attracted by money and show-off. Do not forget this!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Turning a simple package tour into an adventure – Turkey south coast example – Part 2

What a view!

What a view!

This is the second post to our recent Turkey trip, part one see here.

Antalya

We also did a day trip to the old town of Antalya.

It is a nice stroll around more or less old Anatol style buildings, all very cleanly renovated and in great shape.
And admittedly, the setting of the city on a cliff at the see and close to the Taurus mountains is indeed spectacular.

However, to be honest, overall we were slightly disappointed:
Although the beauty of the city is widely known (and it is beautiful in fact), it misses something very important, that other Turkish Cities can offer:

A kind of “air” or “authenticity”.

The thing it, that the old part of town makes the impression of a museum or Disney park. Everything is a bit too clean and polished, too many tourist places, and actually the local life and the buzzing of the native population it completely missing, as the actual city live takes place outside of the old town.

This is much different in other cities we have seen in Turkey, like Istanbul, Sinop, Safranbolu.
And for Woodpecker, this “air” is one of the most important factors of a true must-see city.

Recommendation: If you are around, give it a visit, but half a day is enough I’d say.

(Click to enlarge, hover for captions)

 

Now we come to the undisputed highlight of our trip:

Selge

We took a drive to a nearby canyon for a nice climb-down to the cool and wildly rushing river and throw stones with the kids (you can do rafting there too) and then decided to proceed to the ancient city of Selge, a secluded place a lofty 1100m above sea level.
It was quite a challenging drive. A few clowns we met actually used Jeeps to get up there, which is unnecessary, because the pavement of the road was quite fine in all steep sections, the problem was rather that the road is very suspended and without guard rails, so sometimes the mountain just dropped off into 200 meters of void next to the road.
In a word: You should not suffer from vertigo there.
However not a problem for Woodpecker as an old mountaineer, thus I’d say we were considerably faster than the Jeep-Clowns. 🙂

When we finally arrived, I was in full awe of the beauty of the place.

THIS IS A HELL OF A SPOT.

Boy, these Greek and Roman chaps sure knew how to pick great spots for their cities!

Full 10/10 Lord of the Ring score and
9/10 Indiana Jones score.

A true magic place, like you would not expect to find it outside a film, and only 90 mins away from a busy tourist area.

See yourself:

(please enlarge by clicking to get the full experience! hover for captions)

 

Aspendos

Aspendos was another spot we visited.

This one is an “A” spot, thus there is a guard, an (significant) entrance fee etc.
However, the theater there is among the best preserved worldwide and even hosts a music festival (like Verona), which must be incredible to join.

The secret tip here is to go the hilly excavation site uphill from the theater, which is typically not visited by groups (too much walking), and quite interesting.

Lord of the Ring Score 4/10.
Indiana Jones Score 4/10.

You think anything your country is building these days will still be that spectacular like this theater 2.000 years from now?!

Hm.

I will never complain again about the waste of public money on prestige buildings, provided one precondition:

Dear politicians and leaders! Build if you want. Spend our money. Build it big and beautiful. But please, please, build massive. Build in STONE. So that Woodpeckers 50*Grandsons can enjoy the place 2000 years from now!
Thanks.

Sillyon

Last excursion was to Sillyon, a totally undeveloped place on a table mountain.

There is not too much to see, but strolling around the location is fun anyway, as cows are grazing between the ruins and you find nice examples of ancient cities biggest enemies: Stone looting for constructing other houses.

Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 7/10.

 

All in all, this package tour turned into some good adventure thanks to only a little additional own initiative.

Btw., it was a great mixture for the kids as well. Exploring, climbing, beach and a bit of swimming in the pool and the indoor pool.
Parents know that it can be difficult to combine the needs of young kids and your own activity needs from time to time.But it is doable, there is no need to hang out two weeks exclusively in a plastic paradise of a “family hotel” or in a hyper expensive Disney-World.

This trip might serve as a blue-print!

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Turning a simple Package Tour into an Adventure – Turkey South Coast Example – Part 1

A trip back in history. Turkey, south coast.

A trip back in history. Turkey, south coast.

Winter finally is gone, and it is about time to leave your sofas, go out and explore the world a bit.

This is what the Woodpecker clan thought, when some weeks ago we checked the internet and found a very pleasantly prices package tour to a tourist resort in southern Turkey (apparently all the russian tourist are missing there, so price was incredible low).

But then you might guess our next thought:

A package tour? An All-inclusive tourism resort?! Hm, not really the thing the Woodpeckers are typically into. Sounds too much like fat-bellied ever-beer-drinking average consumer chaps in the main stream hotels and hard-working rat-racers with their mobiles always on in the golf clubs next door.
Not seeing the country but feasting on “international” (i.e. boring) food, buying overpriced carpets, demanding “Schnitzel” or Burgers in every restaurant and complaining if Turks only speak Turkish.

All not really what we are looking for, as we traveled Turkey a total of 20 weeks before individually and far off the beaten tracks, two times even with our own car that we brought there all the way from Germany, one time a full eight weeks in a row during parental leave (different story).

Anyway, the price included accommodation, flight, food, kids care, pool etc and was so good that it was hardly beatable by anything we could compile ourselves, plus we had an advantage:

Most people going to the area around Antalya rely on their tour operators on what to do, and miss out the chance that there are actually a lot of places to discover and a lot of non-mainstream things to do, provided one thing:

Your own transportation and a bit of trust in your own ability to cope with local traffic and sometimes “challenging” road layout, e.g. in the mountains.

So we decided to go for it but do it the Woodpecker style:

The booked AI hotel should only serve as our comfortable and cheap home-base and we rented a car with a local company that I can wholeheartedly recommend especially to Germans, as they are specialized on german customers: Say Automobile. It is a hands-on rental company, friendly and cheap (we paid 30 EUR per day for a compact car plus ony 3 EUR per child seat and day, delivery and pickup included. Prolongation of rental period was settled by phone and simply leaving 30 additional EUR in the car when parking it in front of hotel for pick-up).

So, we arrived and where all puzzled by the fact that someone with out name on a sign was already waiting to pick us up at the airport, everything was prepared, we did not have to care for anything, etc.
Not need to organize something themselves – obviously what most tourists are looking for.
But after two days of hanging out at the pool and walking from one AI food station to the next – as expected – it started to bore us (can’t understand how people are able to spend a full two weeks in the resort without their brains getting mash), so we started our excursions:

And South Turkey (or all of Turkey to be precise) is just perfect to go out and explore. People are extremely friendly and helpful, especially outside tourist zones, and especially if you have kids and do not behave like a superior asshole. Turkey also is cheap, food is great, landscapes are diverse and fascinating, and the best is:

Ancient cities!

Woodpecker loves ancient cities, especially if they are not boring ordinary ancient cities, but if they fulfill two criteria:

1) A great setting, what I call a “Lord of the Ring setting”, giving you that “Fellowship of the Ring travels the empty lands of Middle Earth” feeling.

2) As few other visitors as possible and as little signs of modern culture as possible. Giving you what I call “Indiana Jones discovers magic place no Westerner has seen before” feeling.

Thus, the perfect spot would be an ancient city, half buried under vegetation, barely digged out, no signposts, fences, guards or paved walkways, sitting in a secluded, quite and spectacular landscape, not really visited by a lot of people.

And belief it or not: Turkey is full of this places! Even as close to touristic hot-spots as the Turkish Riviera.

However, to max out your chances to be there alone, follow the classical four rules of anti-cyclical tourism:

Go there when:

  • Time is odd, off-season, or early in the morning or late afternoon (or night for the pros)
  • Weather is bad (this is a big secret tip to enjoy so many places that are otherwise crowded)
  • You have to exert effort to get there. A long hike necessary? Perfect. A difficult drive not doable for tour busses? Great.
  • Choose the second tier. This ruins may be a bit smaller, but this is more than off-set by being able to be there alone and really feel the thousands of years of history plus the magic of the place (holds true as well for mountain peeks, churches, cities, basically all places that gain from being empty).

Termessos

The first tour took us to Termessos, an ancient city in the Taurus mountains, set on a spectacular mountain valley quite close to Antalya.
It is not fully clear when it was founded, but certainly before 500 BC. Termessos was under siege by Alexander the Great in 333 BC, but Alexander finally had to give up and conquer half of Asia instead.

It is a difficult drive though and a long sweaty walk to get to the ruins, thus the place is not crowded. At least not in April and with weather being on our side (i.e. cloudy, cold, some rain). A few people running around but if you go to the fantastic necropolis (the city of the dead, an extra 30 min walk uphill) you are alone again.

This is what we got. The theme of the this location was mountain grey.

Lord of the Rings Score 7/10.
Indiana Jones Score 6/10.

(Click for large version, hover for caption)

 

Lyrbe

Being fascinated by Termessos, the real surprise came when we discovered Lyrbe (incorrectly called Seleucia, even in Wikipedia), a quite unknown place, not much written about in the guidebooks.

But what a magic setting, so quite and secluded in the middle of a pine forest. NO ONE in the whole area there except the Woodpecker clan. Bird chirping and wind being the only sound around to disturb the sleep of centuries.

Lord of the Ring Score 6/10.
Indiana Jones Score 9/10.

Difficult to catch this special atmosphere in pictures, but I tried. Note the lovely greenish atmosphere in the forrest.

(Click for large version, hover for caption)

 

 

But then, a few days later, Woodpecker really was swept off his feet by another excursion.

This one – Selge – was so spectacular that it deserves a separate post – stay tuned!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Prometheus – on the Art of Empowering Yourself

Prometheus brings fire to mankind.

Prometheus brings fire to mankind.

From time to time, even the true downshifter, who is much less interested in power, money, glamour that the average chap, will feel a stitch of envy.

Especially if you are a self-made man or woman, who started without rich daddy, without great family connections, helping little ties etc.

A downshifter will typically not envy the powerful or rich career makers who made it to the top on their own account and paid their price to climb up the ladder, because he theoretically could have done the same but decided not to.

But he might envy the 1% (or 5%, whatever), who did just nothing, who did not work hard or invest clever. Those who simply and by stupid luck were born rich and powerful, in the right family, at the right time, in the right place. Those that (although they – as the only ones – will never see that) got their status, their wealth and their (apparently!) care-free life not by effort, but by pure luck.

As most human emotions envy is nothing wrong at all, but holds a function:

It’s a signal from your subconsciousness, that something is wrong here, that you seeing something unjust.
Of course the signal can be wrong, but often it is also right, because – please don’t tell your kids – life is indeed unjust.
There was never full justice in the world, there is not today (not even in your country, company, family) and there probably never will be full justice in the future. I don’t like it, but that is the way it is.

On the other hand, too much envy is certainly not helpful, so today I have something for your comfort:

 

One of my favorite “heroes” from Greek mythology and a “role model for the modern middle-class employee” (woodpecker interpretation 🙂 ):

Prometheus!

As you might know, Prometheus was the guy who stole the fire from the gods and brought it to humankind.

In the Woodpecker modern interpretation:
Prometheus was the anti-authoritarian self-made man, who empowered himself, built his life from scratch without the help of a devine birth and then took what needed to be taken from the powerful without caring too much about their permission (in fact no harm done, of course the gods still have their own fire too, but they just wanted to keep it all for themselves). And he had his pride about his self-empowerment and about all he had accomplished HIMSELF despite his low born start.

To better understand, read my favorite poem from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Simply replace “Zeus”/“the gods” by the “rich and the powerful born class” and “Prometheus” by yourself or “the self-made-man”.

You will see how Prometheus/you can be proud about the house he built on his own and in fact is envied by the gods for the warmth of his hearth. A warmth that they will be able to enjoy.
You will see that the gods/the rich born are poor in a sense that they all depend on the mercy of the people plus owe their whole status to our all masters: time and fate.
You will see that Prometheus/you overcomes disappointment, empowers himself and decides on his own to be as happy as the gods/the rich&powerful, and you can be as well.

You will understand that you, the self-made man/woman, have sources of happiness at your hand that the rich born will never know.

That is independence.
That is real comfort.
That will shield you and make you an upright and self-confident person, no matter where you stand on the “social ladder” of your country.

What a fantastic piece of art by Goethe!

(English translation of the poem here)

Prometheus

Bedecke deinen Himmel, Zeus,

Mit Wolkendunst!

Und übe, Knaben gleich,

Der Disteln köpft,

An Eichen dich und Bergeshöh’n!

Mußt mir meine Erde

Doch lassen steh’n,

Und meine Hütte,

Die du nicht gebaut,

Und meinen Herd,

Um dessen Glut

Du mich beneidest.

 

Ich kenne nichts Ärmeres

Unter der Sonn’ als euch Götter!

Ihr nähret kümmerlich

Von Opfersteuern

Und Gebetshauch

Eure Majestät

Und darbtet, wären

Nicht Kinder und Bettler

Hoffnungsvolle Toren.

 

Da ich ein Kind war,

Nicht wußte, wo aus, wo ein,

Kehrt’ ich mein verirrtes Auge

Zur Sonne, als wenn drüber wär

Ein Ohr zu hören meine Klage,

Ein Herz wie meins,

Sich des Bedrängten zu erbarmen.

 

Wer half mir

Wider der Titanen Übermut?

Wer rettete vom Tode mich,

Von Sklaverei?

Hast du’s nicht alles selbst vollendet,

Heilig glühend Herz?

Und glühtest, jung und gut,

Betrogen, Rettungsdank

Dem Schlafenden dadroben?

 

Ich dich ehren? Wofür?

Hast du die Schmerzen gelindert

Je des Beladenen?

Hast du die Tränen gestillet

Je des Geängsteten?

Hat nicht mich zum Manne geschmiedet

Die allmächtige Zeit

Und das ewige Schicksal,

Meine Herren und deine?

 

Wähntest du etwa,

Ich sollte das Leben hassen,

In Wüsten fliehn,

Weil nicht alle Knabenmorgen-

Blütenträume reiften?

 

Hier sitz’ ich, forme Menschen

Nach meinem Bilde,

Ein Geschlecht, das mir gleich sei,

Zu leiden, weinen,

Genießen und zu freuen sich,

Und dein nicht zu achten,

Wie ich!

 

(side note: Prometheus was harshly punished by the gods for his theft, thus be a bit careful with the “stealing” part 😉 )

Cheers,

Woodpecker

 

 

2014 – How Crisis can Turn into Something Good

Happy new year!

Happy new year!

Wow, 10 days into the new year already, and no year-summary, no new-year-resolution post or anything the like so far.

In the past I was much quicker with the “assessment” of the year passed, with summarizing if it was a “good” or a “bad” year, which specific events were unique, and above all: How Woodpeckers performed financially. Questions like that were answered quickly in the past: “Was frugal living a success the year before?”, “Did I earn more than year?”, “Did the stash grow?”, “Did my investments perform?”.

So how come that I did not feel like a summary post this time, and even did not yet comprehend Woodpeckers financial performance in 2015 for myself?

  1. The first reason is:
    I start to get bored by my own statistics. Somewhen during this year I recognised that concentrating too much on counting money is indeed a sign that you get old, and more than that, that you obviously do not find much other thrill in life anymore.
    So you watch your stash grow in the secret hope that this – one day – will buy you back adventure, a “kick”, the lust for life.
    Bad news: This will not happen.
    The feeling of being alive cannot be bought. Literature and Myth is full of this, so it is amazing that it took Woodpecker so long to recognize he was on the very same way. Needless to say that this is not the right way to happiness.
  2. The second reason is:
    Financial Performance was crap anyway. Earnings were down (this was intentional as I took two months unpaid off in summer), spending up (we did a hell load of traveling and great short trips this year!) thus savings were down (while still much higher than anticipated), and investment performance was really bad (some not so fortunate investments done).
    Overall my current gut feeling is:
    Earnings were down 10%, spending up 5%, savings down 50% (but still +-15% of income), stash down 10% (due to bad investment performance). The last point is obviously not at all satisfying.
  3. But the main reason is:
    I refuse to let myself being dragged down by a loss of money.
    I will be honest: This did drag me down for some time during this year. But now this is overcome.
    Thus one of the two great gifts to me this year was that I overcame my addiction to “make money” and to overcome the correlation of my mood with the performance of my portfolio. The increasing focus on financial performance is THE great danger when going down the frugal living, early retirement, and the “I let my money work for me”-road. You may also simply call this temptation greed. Despite what some idiots today may try to tell you, greed is not good, not even for yourself. It will dry you out and make you a lifeless and bitter person if you yield to it. I see it all around and I am thankful I was allowed to pass this test.

    Please be careful here and very honest to yourselves!

  4. The fourth reason is:
    It was easier for me to shift away from penny counting because offline social life expanded tremendously during 2014. I made a row of new friends, old friendships that lay in hibernation for a decade were revived.
    Most important Woodpecker joined an international organization and met more different and inspiring people during this year than the total five years before. This was my second gift and continues to be an amazing and vitalizing experience. Very much recommended to everyone. Look around you and instead of counting money, go out and invest in people. Find clubs, societies, associations, whatever and give it a try. Contact people of your youth and propose to meet. Shut down the internet and get out! Drink beers (or juice if you prefer), travel and intentionally mix up with people you found strange or different before. Open yourself, listen to them, talk about god and the world and the big things. Connect on a deeper, personal level. Do things together, enjoy nature together, plan and dream.

    This
    is life! And not your bank-account or you facebook chat.

So if you are solely looking for advise for extreme early retirement or perfection in frugal living, you might better want to leave this blog, I will not follow that extreme road anymore.

If you feel like there is something more in life than retiring early or frugal living, and that efficient spending is merely one tool helping you on your search for those “bigger” things, then you’d better stay, there is more to come.

 

OK, having said all of this, was it a good year then?

Oh yes, it was. It was not always an easy year, and Woodpecker plus family had their share of crisis this time. But I firmly believe sometimes crisis is needed to muster the energy for real change.

And without change, life is nothing for me.

This is what also gives me hope when I see the world around:

Yes, there seems to be crisis everywhere you look.

But what if this crises will lead to a change to the better instead of doom?I think this is very well possible, and if you look carefully you will see a lot of signs that most crisis today turn out much less bad than anticipated by the hysteric public mood. Young people (and those young at heart) seem less and less willing to follow yesterday’s black and white schemes to solve today’s complex problems.

And most if not all doom scenarios are simply void after some years (and get postponed again and again by their advocates 🙂 ).

This is a good sign, although few people yet seem to write about it.

Thus: Spirits up and forward to a great 2015 and a bright future beyond!

 

Cheers,

Woodpecker

Are we Really Living in a Society Driven by Fear? …and What to Do Against It

People increasingly feel uneasy because they think all decisions have to be made perfectly correct to avoid ending on the "looser road"

People increasingly feel uneasy because they think all decisions have to be made perfectly correct to avoid ending on the “looser road” (link to clip see below)

Seen a great little film today on the media site of German Television (ARD).

It is about us being a “society of fear”. The clip is about German society, but certainly describes the feeling in many if not most modern societies.

Key theses are:

  1. The whole society today is basically driven by fear
  2. Everybody is obsessed by status and even more by the fear of loosing his/her current status
  3. People feel the constant urge to compete and want to be “fit
  4. People have the feeling they always have to choose and always have to be chosen
  5. Thus people become “radar persons”, always sensing for feedback from the outside (waiting for the “I like” of others) instead of trusting in their own intuition or inner guiding.
  6. People have the feeling that all relationships are alway cancel-able. Thus security dwindles
  7. We are more and more becoming a society of lone warriors
  8. All of this leads to a diffuse unease. But people see no real alternative, thus carry on.

A very accurate assessment of the situation in my opinion.

Link here (German only).

Having said that the question is out what can you do against this unease that probably most of us will feel from time to time.

Obviously I don’t have the answer (yet 😉 ).

But a few of Woodpeckers mantras is certainly helpful to address most of the points above:

  • Improve and nurse your social contacts.
  • Hook up to groups, societies, or (if you feel like) to political parties, NGOs etc. And I mean offline, not online. Online communities are worth close to nothing if the shit hits the fan.
  • Always prioritize friends and families above work, duty, competition etc.
  • Understand that all this “a crisis is coming” talk is bullshit (see this post). We all have food, housing, warmth and clothes in full abundance and almost certainly will still have all of this for lifetime.
  • Be open and welcoming to all sorts of people. Use tit-for-tat in case the other misbehaves, but always start out friendly and trusting and be ready to forgive.
  • Never burn bridges.
  • Try to revive old contacts, even if they were buried for decades.
  • Understand that people will use this kind of fear to intimidate you and make you do what they want (to work cheap, to obey, to be “flexible” etc.). Resist and you will see that you have more negotiation power than others try to tell you.
  • Do a good job in your employment, but don’t play the work-drone. Once others notices you do everything, they will shovel everything on you. Not good.
  • Do sports, out-door activity, travelling to concentrate mind and body.
  • Spend more time offline and without news / internet. Definitly no blackberry outside office-hours!
  • Try to turn off all communication devices after e.g. 8 p.m. Learn to be by yourself or with the people who accompany you this very moment.

Any more suggestions by readers?!

Please comment, all ideas are welcome.

Cheers,

Woodpecker